34-20 Broadway at 35th St, Astoria
The Place: A tropical tiki bar where it’s summer no matter the weather.
The Time: Friday April 5, 8:30pm. My friend just moved to Astoria and is having a housewarming party. Because I’m basically never in Queens, I’m taking this as an opportunity to scope out a new cocktail bar. A quick search on the Google machine tells me my friend lives down the street from The Highwater, a tiki bar with a bar program designed by women! In trying to manifest some sunshine and in the spirit of celebrating badass ladies, this is a no brainer.
The Vibe: Well it’s raining today so when I open the door to this small, warm, busy place where everyone is wearing tropical shirts and the walls are painted with palm tree fronds, it’s a welcome change from the outside world. There’s definitely a fun tiki surf vibe happening. Edison bulbs, big and small, light the space, as well as a pink neon sign that says “welcome to the jungle.” Literally all the people in here are younger than 35. Maybe 32, but I’m not a great judge of age. However, a busy bar = no bar stools, and since there’s not really room to stand, I end up perching on the service bar side of the bar; not the best place to be, but no one tells me to move so I figure it’s ok. In addition to every bar stool, all the tables are taken as well - a combo of hightops and a few booths. Soon though I’m able to move to the other corner of the bar, nestled in next to a fish tank. I’m reminded of my last surf-bar fish-tank experience and wonder if this tank o’ fish will upstage me too.
The Bartender: Two guys in...tropical shirts. One has a beard; the other does not. I later find out their names are Martin and George, respectively. George, the non-bearded one (clean shaven, I suppose you’d call that?) holds eye contact a little too long after I order my drink. But I don’t back down either so maybe it’s like, an unspoken competition. He calls me “sweetheart” at one point, which is possibly my least favorite thing, when men give women they don’t know pet names like sweetheart or honey or doll. While I’m there and once I reveal that I’m in the industry, I discover that George is a really nice dude (and one of the owners! So hey George what’s up!).
The Drank: I know it’s a tiki bar. They have a long list of tiki drinks and I know I should order one of them. But once I see the About Thyme, I can’t help myself. It’s gin, ginger liqueur, beet thyme syrup, lemon and aquafaba. I love all the flavors in this cocktail and I’ve never seen aquafaba on a cocktail menu before. Aquafaba is the liquid from chickpeas and provides the same mouthfeel as egg white. It looks exactly the same, serves the same purpose as an egg white does in a cocktail, but I can’t help sense a chickpea aftertaste. Maybe it’s just because I know aquafaba is essentially chickpea juice. The drink is delicious though so no one’s complaining over here but ignorance can be bliss sometimes.
Was I Hit On?: If you can get hit on in a friend-way, then yes. Another solo woman sits down next to me. She clearly knows the bartenders so I assume she’s a regular or works nearby or something. We begin chatting and I find out she and Martin are married! Her name is Iliana and she’s an artist and we both have dogs named after alcohol (her dog’s name is Amaro; mine is named Sherry). Before I head off to the housewarming, George, Martin, Iliana and I all take a shot of bourbon and I feel like possibly I’ve made some new friends. Which is what a tiki bar should be about, I think.
Should You Drink Alone Here?: Yeah for sure. A packed Friday night was a little tricky, so I’d go on a weekday, or perhaps earlier in the evening. But The Highwater is a chill cozy place to drink some good cocktails and maybe meet some cool people. So ride that wave, lady.